Helping vulnerable children in school performance
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THERE is a research board documenting student and school performance for indigenous students from poor families. In recognition the major role that parents and families play in children’s academic achievements, a Tanga-based organisation, the Tanga International Competence Centre (TICC) is developing a system to create a permanent scheme to involve parents develop a framework to guide schools and families in creating what they called ‘family– school partnerships’.

The new development, according to the Education Sponsorship Programme Responsible person, Gilead Mbogoro, the aim is to make sure that children under the programme sponsorship perform well to make the sponsorship more beneficial to the sponsors.

The center, which is implementing a two programmes, through its nongovernmental organization Hatua na Maendeleo (HAMA), Family Support and Education Sponsorship for vulnerable families and children organized a workshop for parents and guardians of children getting the support of the programme.

Currently the number of children under this program has reached 131, six more the limit of 125 that has been set to be sponsored at one time. “We need to reduce the number to help those who are serious with studies and who perform well in school,” he said.

According to the HAMA leader, Martin Ferdinand, the workshop has been prompted by falling performance of the children being sponsored under the programme. We would like the parents or guardians to help us push their children to perform better to make children recognize themselves and value the sponsorship.

He said that most of sponsors of the children are students who come to the center under an internship programme with Universities from Norway or Norwegian who have been mobilized by the students.

Ferdinand said that he thinks that when they sit down together with the parents and caretakers they would value what TICC, HAMA and the sponsors were doing and avoid a situation where the sponsors are frustrated to the extent of deciding to cut off the sponsorship.

“Our aim is to formulate a permanent system to involve the parents in the academic development of their children,” he pointed out.

Over 15 such children have so far completed their studies at the University level and some of them have been employed at the center. “I had a dream to serve the community and the sponsorship has been the only opportunity for me to realize my dreams because education is very expensive,” said Seif, who is one of the beneficiaries of the program.

He is now employed as Administrative Officer with HAMA.

Another, Frida Ramadhani who is employed in the same organisation, said that It was a shame that some parents and children do not value the support that has been given to vulnerable children. “I never thought one day I would be a graduate and employed in a vocation that has been my dream,” she said.

According to Mbogoro one of the major challenges they have been facing is lack of awareness on the importance of education among the children and their parents or guardians.

“Sometimes we rent a car to visit the children at their homes, you won’t find the child or the parent at home when you reach the respective home despite earlier notice,” said Mbogoro. An officer with a sister program, Family Support, that is closely connected to the Education project, Juliet Haule said that they were using a lot of energy to support them.

“The response is somewhat frustrating,” said Juliet. The objective of the Family Support programme is to reduce poverty, improve living conditions and ensure that vulnerable families are empowered and able to meet their needs while the children are able to fulfill their education goals.

“Children who are supported by this programme are gradually passed over to the Education Programme for further support after the three years that have been set for support under the Family support,” Juliet explained.

She said that the programme was initiated in 2010 with 18 families that had a total of 69 children.

“Eight families from this group have already been released from this program me after reaching a stage where they can manage on their own while three new families have been included in the program to make the number of families currently receiving support under the program to be 10,” she said.

According to Juliet, a total of 27 from the ten families are currently receiving support from the program out of which 13 are in primary school while five in the kindergarten, one in secondary school, three in vocational school.

She added that five under five children still at home and two teenage mothers are also being supported by the program.

“We need motivation from parents an guardians to continue with the support,” said Juliet, adding that they currently using an approach of using renewal forms as a way of encouraging parents to encourage children to improve their academic performance.

She said it was discouraging to find some parents and guardians refusing support in agriculture, preferring instead being provided with cash to buy food.

Speaking on how they go around solving the problem, Juliet said that they have been involving the Tanga City Social Welfare Department and Civic leaders in solving such problems so we hope after the initiating this strategy of meeting parents and guardians such steps would to be necessary.

A resource sheet, reviewing available literature on ‘what works’, in supporting the involvement of indigenous parents in their children’s education supports such an argument. It reports that ‘positive parental engagement in learning improves academic achievement, wellbeing and productivity’.

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